Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review: The Conference of the Birds

Author: Farid ud-Din Attar                                                                         
Publish: this translation was first published in 1984
Print Length: 240 pages                                                                                   
Audio Book: No

Farid ud-Din Attar, also known as Attar of Nishapur, a Persian poet, was born in Nishapur, Iran in 1145. In his early career as a pharmacist, he helped many people in his home town. Later he abandoned his pharmacy and traveling to different countries became his intense interest. After meeting some Sufi leaders in India, he started promoting Sufi ideas as he returned to Nishapur. Attar's master piece, "The Conference of the Birds", is a poetic moral story of a flock of birds in the journey of seeking truth, the God.  With aimless life style, birds around the world gather in a garden try to find out if there is a meaning in life and if there is a God. An intelligent bird, called hoopoe, led these birds and started their long journey of searching for truth, the meaning of existence.  By using riddles and answers, hoopoe advised and encouraged all birds to be brave, grateful and to be truthful. Life is not an easy game and we all live to be reborn and we are born to learn how to live a fulfilling life. 

Translated by Afkham Darbandi and Dr. Dick Davis, this exceptional book catches man's heart for almost one thousand years. If you like Rumi and Hafez, you will enjoy this book much more profoundly. As a  poem, it is exquisite and spectacular; as an epic allegory of seeking God, it is majestic and noble; as a spiritual guidance, this book leads you to your intellectual self. I read this book many years ago and at that time I was mainly focusing on the spiritual part of the book. After becoming a serious birder, revisit of this book brought me to a higher level of realization. I consider myself a fast reader. However, this is not a book you will want to read without a thought or many thoughts. You need to read this book like tasting a good wine and, you will swallow its essence only when you understand life should be embraced with love not hate, with peace not war.

Happy birding and happy reading!
-- Linda


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  1. I read your review after attending a Global Birdwatching Conference in Gujarat, India, and simultaneously dipping into Attar's sublime work that I am far from even beginning to understand.

    A key speaker at the Conference was the Maharaja of Jamnagar. The Maharaja predicted that bird migratory patterns would in future be among the leading predictors of climate change. “Do birds have intelligence?” he asked rhetorically. “We give too much credence to instinct – but what about their innovative ways in life and powers of communication? We should study changes in bird habitats - all these changes are for a reason, and they can be forward indicators of transformations about to happen in the world.”

    So, thank you for this review. May I get back to you once I've read and pondered Attar's work a little more?


    Graham Simmons

  2. Dear Graham,
    Thanks for reading my review of "The conference of Birds". As I read this book, I have nothing but admiration towards our feathered friends...this book of Attar is merely an ancient tale of ways that how these birds searched for a truth of life. A beautiful book I can not live's not easy to read at the first....but, if you open your mind and think a little as you read...I will be here waiting for your return.

    Happy New Year, happy reading, and Happy Birding!


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